Fighting coronavirus: How authorities decide containment zones—its size and time period

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July 03, 2020 5:04 PM

In the absence of Covid-19 vaccine, the creation of containment zones can help limit the transmission, by breaking the chain of coronavirus spread.

According to health experts, the creation of containment zones is the only practical isolation strategy available with the government.According to health experts, the creation of containment zones is the only practical isolation strategy available with the government. (Photo: The Indian Express)

As the coronavirus pandemic is spreading across the world, including India, creation of containment zones and careful and effective management of these zones can help limit the transmission till the time scientists, pharmaceuticals companies develop Covid-19 vaccine.

These zones help reduce people-to-people contact and break the chain of virus spread—the motive behind government-announced lockdowns, five phases so far. These zones serve the same purpose.

According to health experts, the creation of containment zones is the only practical isolation strategy available with the government. It needs to empower local authorities, both in urban and rural areas, for effective management of these zones.

An area, colony, street, and housing society, etc., declared as a containment zone if it has people with virus infections (positive cases). The government has empowered district, town, or panchayat authorities to decide which area needs to be marked as containment zones. They also decide how large they would be, and what kind of restrictions would apply, after taking stock of the situation looking at the number of positive cases.

While demarcating containment zones, district administration, municipal corporation, or panchayat officials strictly adhere to the guidelines. However, the definition and time period vary depending on the development. They continuously review and update.

Across the country, parameters are the same for demarcating containment zones. However, it varies according to local conditions. The criteria are changing with time and evolution. The size of containment zones is getting smaller as the number of cases is rising. In fact, the smaller size helping the government and authorities minimize their focus to a particular area, society, building, and house. Now the demarcation of containment zones is narrowed down from entire localities to colonies; neighbourhood to streets; and lanes to particular buildings, and now just particular floors.

In Delhi, a containment zone is declared if three or more people found positive for Covid-19. Gurgaon is classifying an area as containment zone if five positive cases detected within a 1-km radius, while in Noida is designating an area a containment zone, even if one person is found positive within a radius of 250 metre, or in a floor of a building.

If no new case emerges from the containment zone for 28 days, authorities get it denotified. The period may vary also; some cities are even following seven days while some are 14 days to denotify a containment zone. Different cities also follow different perimeter rules for declaring a containment zone.

In Mumbai, the entire Worli Koliwada was one of the few areas to be designated as a containment zone. As the area saw a huge spike in cases, authority reduced the size of the containment zone to narrow down their focus. Now, affected buildings or floors are getting declared as containment zones. The city has two categories now—containment zones and sealed buildings. Now, Mumbai has around 755 containment zones and 6,174 sealed buildings.

If one case is detected in a multi-storey building in Lucknow, then authority sealed the particular floor. If more cases detected, then the entire building or tower gets sealed. They check the status after two weeks.

Let’s take a look at Kerala, which is getting praised for controlling Covid-19 spread in the state. Here officials declared a residential locality as positive zone if a patient who is under home quarantine tests positive, or if someone without a known source of infection tests positive. In fact, the places of work of these cases are also declared containment zones. After a week, officials review the status of the containment zone.

In Karnataka, in apartment complexes, if one person found positive, then the floor, the floors directly above and directly below are declared a containment area. Officials review after two weeks.

In Kolkata, only the building or apartment complex in which a positive case is detected is classified as a containment zone. Sometimes adjoining lanes and neighbouring buildings are also included depending on the number of cases. The city has 1,451 containment zones now.

In Madhya Pradesh, earlier if positive cases found, the administration used to declare one km radius around the case as containment zone, and another 2 km as a buffer zone for 21 days. Now, only adjacent houses or buildings are included.

In Punjab, if an area has 15 or more positive cases, it is declared as a containment zone. The state has just four containment zones–two in Ludhiana and one each in Jalandhar and Sangrur now. But, there are 40 micro-containment zones in the state with 5-15 positive cases. The state has also identified another 104 clusters with two to four cases each.

According to Rajasthan’s Additional Chief Secretary Rohit Kumar, as reported by the Indian Express, the containment zones were initially meant to be areas within a 1 km radius of the building or house in which positive case was found. It follows a 3-km radius buffer zone rule. Now, there is no strict definition. The state is now demarcating “small identifiable geographical area where perimeter control is possible”.

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